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William Waller speaking at a podium before a US Flag

Mississippi Courts Won’t Say How They Provide Lawyers for Poor Defendants

In 2017, the Mississippi Supreme Court’s then-Chief Justice William Waller Jr. helped mandate that judges throughout the state explain in writing how they deliver on their duty to provide poor criminal defendants with a lawyer. Now, six years after the rule went into effect, only one of the 23 circuit court districts in the state has responded.

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a close up photo of Cliff Johnson

Mississippi Says Poor Defendants Must Always Have a Lawyer. Few Courts Are Ready to Deliver.

In April, the Mississippi Supreme Court changed the rules for state courts to require that poor criminal defendants have a lawyer throughout the sometimes lengthy period between arrest and indictment. The goal is to eliminate a gap during which no one is working on a defendant’s behalf. That mandate went into effect Saturday. But few of the state’s courts have plans in place to change their procedures in a way that is likely to accomplish what the justices intended.

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